*NEW* SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING REVIEW *NEW*

Spidey’s back! Third reboot’s the charm?

Several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker (Tom Holland), with the help of his mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in New York while fighting crime as Spider-Man as a new threat, the Vulture (Michael Keaton), emerges.

I was furious when I heard that Spiderman was being rebooted yet again. I grew up with the Maguire movies and thought he was the best Spidey. Plus he gave us all these incredible shots. I mean, come on . . .

 

 

Although I tried to watch the 2002 entry (15 years?!) the other day and thought it was pretty cringe inducing watching a bunch of people in their mid-20s to 30s pretending to be 16. Yikes. It already felt dated and far too corny for its own good. While Spiderman 2, on the other hand, is still fantastic.

I liked Andrew Garfield BUT felt the Amazing Spiderman movies did more damage to the franchise than Spiderman 3. Especially Part Two. Dreadful doesn’t come close to expressing my disappointment with that movie. Shame.

Civil War was one of the best Marvel movies. Surprisingly, the biggest scene stealer out of the ever-growing and incredibly talented cast was . . . Spidey himself. I was really impressed with Holland’s cameo. So much so that I was actually looking forward (and dare I say excited) to watching Homecoming.

So after that rambling prologue, did Holland deliver on his first full feature debut?

In a nutshell, he didn’t disappoint! Good fun all round!

The energy and quick witted humour was cranked up to 11. Holland’s fast talking and rampant energy was a much needed injection to a franchise (I feared) couldn’t be revived.

The opening didn’t mess about. It set up the baddie, brought in the hero and got down to business.

Homecoming was an origin movie without being one (if that’s possible). We didn’t have the spider bite. We’ve had 5 movies (and a vastly rich comic book backlog). We all know how he got his powers. And just in case, you didn’t; a passing comment was enough to suffice.

The producers have done their homework. Using the predecessors as a base to explore unmarked territory. Hardly a spoiler BUT there wasn’t even another soul destroying Uncle Ben killing back story.

If anything, this felt like, as Stark so rightly put it, “Spiderman in training wheels” mode. A much lighter effort.

The humour was fantastic as Spiderman tried to help his neighbourhood. Rescuing stolen bikes, giving people directions and swinging around the city. All to the beat of a cracking soundtrack.

The high school melodrama was a little tame for me. Watchable and fun BUT I want my superheroes battling something darker than popularity and a high school crush.

Zendaya was funny but her role felt a little unnecessary and out of place. Jacob Batalon was the scene stealer as Peter’s nerdy partner in crime, Ned. The clumsy duo delivered some of the better laughs.

Marisa Tomei wasn’t in this as much as I hoped. I always liked the relationship between Aunt May and Peter. They didn’t really get any proper screen time until near the end. Despite some nice moments, there are some things we don’t mind revisiting.

It helped having Tony Stark popping up as Parker’s mentor. The dynamic worked on so many levels; giving an extra depth to the pair. Parker with his naïve and eager determination to do more and Stark finally opening up and showing that he’s more than a mega rich ego-centrist.

I didn’t really have much time for Jon Favreau’s chauffeur Happy in the Iron Man movies. I thought it was a little pretentious for the Iron Man director to get in on the action BUT he really delivered as the miserable babysitter. His droll demeanour and frustration worked perfectly with the super peppy Parker.

The special effects were fantastic. A nail biting action set piece involving the Washington Monument left me feeling queasy. I’m not that bad with heights BUT even that sequence gave me vertigo. Bleurgh.

3D was a waste of time. BUT if you’re thinking of seeing it in 4DX, I would heavily recommend. Just don’t see it on a hot summer’s day. Trust me, you’ll be praying for Keaton’s Vulture (Steady now). Only if it’s just for the fans to come on. Phew.

And Michael Keaton, well . . . I can’t even begin to tackle the metatextual references. The guy who played a superhero, who then played a washed up actor playing a superhero called Birdman, who then played a super villain called the Vulture. My God.

He was brilliant. Chewing up the scenes. Not enough of him. I felt his performance and gravitas was wasted on the wrong villain. After having the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe’s NOT James Franco and DEFINITELY NOT Dane DeHaan’s Green Goblin!) and Doctor Octopus, the Vulture fell short by comparison.

Keaton was only really let loose in the chaotic finale. His “Walk away” speech with Parker was tense and unnerving. Perfect. I wanted more of that.

The pace did lag as we reached the 105 minute marker and I felt the final showdown with The Vulture was drawn out and a little repetitive with one agonizing explosion after explosion. The CGI and camera work was incredibly disorienting as the pair spiralled around in the night sky.

Holland delivered a stellar turn BUT I found, at times, his running commentary irritating. Now, I never read the comic books (Sacrilege! I know) BUT was Parker always so chatty that he came off as a mad teen with ADHD? Just a small grumble. I mean come on. He’s 15 with superhuman powers.

Despite its flaws, Homecoming was still a fun ride as Peter come to terms with the scope of his abilities and the morals of justice. With Holland at the helm and this production team, there’s still life in Spidey yet. And I can’t wait for more.

3.5/5

AND . . .  Of course, there is a post credit teaser. It’s a Marvel movie. Be PATIENT and the wait pays off.

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*NEW* CHRISTMAS WITH THE COOPERS REVIEW *NEW*

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This one got me in the spirit. The alcoholic spirits in my cupboard.

As Olivia Wilde’s character put it, “I can’t face the anticipointment. You know anticipation of disappointment”. Well, Ms Wilde. The anticipointment was still too much to bear.

It was watchable BUT enjoyable? I should have known what I was getting myself into. Shame on me. A vomit inducing, corny and God awful Christmas movie. Ho-ho-horrendous. A little late BUT I really don’t want to revisit this next December.

When four generations of the Cooper clan come together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration, a series of unexpected visitors and unlikely events turn the night upside down, leading them all toward a surprising rediscovery of family bonds and the spirit of the holiday.

Yuck. The opening narration with Steve Martin’s smarmy and condescending voice really didn’t get things going. Diane Keaton was unbearable. Her voice grated against me throughout the whole thing. She was too OTT and her whining was annoying.

John Goodman. What has happened to the big man? It just didn’t seem right watching the guy play a sap. His subplot with Keaton was dull as dishwater as the pair looked set to part ways with one final Christmas family gathering. Some guff about a trip they never took because of the kids. Now the opportunity has finally arrived again and Keaton doesn’t want to go. Will this be their last Christmas? Meh.

Timothee Chalamet’s (Interstellar) little story line about getting with his crush and battling body odour was silly. The kissing scenes had me gagging more than Ed Helms’ character. Unnecessary. Ed Helms (The Hangover) was completely wasted in his role. There was potential with his divorced dad character BUT it never went anywhere. They had Alex Borstein from Family Guy playing the scornful ex wife and she even wasn’t used to her full potential. She was barely in it. 

Blake Baumgartner’s bratty granddaughter was irritating. Sorry BUT a gag involving her and a choice swear word just didn’t tickle me. It wasn’t funny the first time and it certainly wasn’t the next umpteen times. Sigh.

Olivia Wilde and Jake Lacy’s (The Office USA) nauseating relationship had its moments. BUT it was soon soiled by it’s own schmaltz. The pair had good chemistry and made the unrealistic and questionable concept of a stranger making a random army guy her fiancee for the day watchable. BUT it was far too cheesy and predictable.

Marisa Tomei’s shoplifting sibling role could have gone down so many routes. I really thought more was going to made out of her incarceration in the back of Anthony Mackie’s (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) cop car. It was just another filler with Mackie’s dreadful emotionless “Robocop”.

Alan Arkin and Amanda Seyfried’s little relationship was endearing enough BUT it wasn’t really explored. It had the right balance as the pensioner chatted up the waitress 50 years his junior. BUT it was rushed with a silly spat that tragically pushed Seyfried into the background. It wasn’t really picked up again until the closing minutes.

June Squibb (Nebraska) had a nothingy role as Aunt Fishy. Considering this was a corny film about togetherness and family. It didn’t have a problem poking fun at a woman suffering from dementia.

Martin’s verbal diarrhea over every scene infuriated me. It would have been nice for these wafer thin characters to have a little depth instead of being told every little thing about them. It felt like someone was reading a book in a delightfully smug and pretentious drone.

If you loved Love Actually and are in the mood for a ridiculously cheesy Christmas flick then this might be of interest. BUT for all my cynicism, I liked Love Actually. It had interesting characters and some reasonable story lines. This struggled to muster one and was so lazily put together that it put me in the wrong kind of mood.

2/5 (Just)

*NEW* TRAINWRECK REVIEW *NEW*

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Was it one big train wreck?

I was a little anxious to see this. I couldn’t get into Girls, didn’t mind Bridesmaids but have always found Apatow’s works a little hit and miss.

BUT it’s always good to be proved wrong. Move over, Miss McCarthy. I have a new lady in my life. Well played, Miss Schumer.

Having thought that monogamy was never possible, a commitment-phobic career woman (Amy Schumer) may have to face her fears when she meets a good guy (Bill Hader).

It’s hardly perfect but I can actually say that I came out of the cinema smiling for the right reasons.

I wasn’t convinced by the opening as we watch a young Amy and Quinn (Brie Larson) being educated by their deadbeat dad (Colin Quinn) after being caught cheating. His analogy using dolls was hilarious.

From that moment, we see the anti-monogamy chants drilled into a young Amy Schumer. 20-odd years down the line and we have our protagonist. Sleeping around, getting drunk, and effing jeffing. I’ve never really found that stuff funny. It got a little repetitive BUT it introduced the selfish and quick witted monster perfectly. Her one liners rolled off a little too fast for me. They didn’t really flow.

HOWEVER, once the film found its tempo, I enjoyed it. Schumer’s improvisation and messing around were generally on the ball. There were patches where she went on just a little bit. There was a moment where Larson and Schumer were looking at pictures of their mother and Amy starts talking about her boobs. It ruined a nice moment and wasn’t that funny.

It’s always a gamble on calling a scene when you’re firing off belters; “Stop walking like the Hulk. I can see that you’re mad”. BUT what helped was that Schumer was assisted by a surprisingly funny supporting cast. John Cena. Words escape me. He was absolutely brilliant. Some of the best acting I’ve seen him do. EVER. Well, since WWE.

He stole every scene from failing at dirty talk in the bedroom to his homo-erotic put downs during an altercation at the cinema. I also loved the short film being played in the cinema scene. The “pretentious” Dog Walker skit featuring Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei got a chuckle. If anything, I wanted to see more of that.

Tilda Swinton as Amy’s boss Dianna was a mixed bag for me. Her put downs and random story telling were bloody mental. BUT I couldn’t get over her raspy Cockney accent. She made the regulars in Eastenders look like Oxford scholars. What was she playing at?

There wasn’t enough of SNL’s Vanessa Bayer for me as Amy’s naive work colleague. LeBron James was very funny. Not all athletes can make the transition to the big screen but he nailed it! From his strop about Downton Abbey to his endless scrimping and bickering over paying the bill. Scrimping? With all those millions? Come on.

It was also good to see Bill Hader playing it straight faced. It was a fresh change and proved the guy can do deadpan and do it well. The crazier moments were certainly left for Miss Schumer. And she most certainly delivered. They had excellent chemistry which really made their inevitable pairing that much more enjoyable.

My main problem with Apatow’s movies is the running length. This is 40 and Funny People were okay films but went on far too long. This film did not need to be two hours long. After the hour marker with the relationship unwittingly taking hold, things did slacken.

It’s all relatable as Amy tries to fight her feelings but it wasn’t very funny. Easygoing enough. I had hoped that the scenes with Brie Larson would have been more entertaining. If it wasn’t for the odd witticism from Schumer, I would have cut them. And things did seem to take a more serious turn.

The subplot involving their dad in a care home never really got going for me. Amy’s character had more than enough flaws to keep things watchable. It felt tacked on and did hamper things. Even if Method Man was his nurse. You read that right.

BUT luckily the film found a second wind as Amy inevitably goes out of her way to complicate matters. The squabbling and tests certainly added an extra depth to the couple. BUT the only problem was that the end result was always going to be the same.

The closing scene was unbelievably corny. I mean it totally fit for all the in-jokes that Schumer and Hader had between each other. BUT at the same time, it didn’t quite fit the overall tone of the film after such a serious middle act with Amy re-evaluating her life. It was all or nothing.

When it’s funny, it’s on fire. When it’s not, it’s a little more testing but certainly watchable. I’ll be more looking forward to Schumer’s next offering.

A trainwreck? Hardly.

3/5

THE REWRITE REVIEW

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I think this needed a few more rewrites. A real shame. Hugh Grant applies his bumbling, miserable British charisma to this terribly drab yawn-com that delivered little on romance or comedy.

I know. Hugh Grant has been playing the same character for years. Why would he change? His last offerings may not have been timeless classics but they were certainly watchable. This one on the other hand is so flat and boring that if not for the cast, I honestly feel it wouldn’t have made the big screen at all.

Now Grant does deliver a sterling performance. Doing what he does best. Sleeping around and upsetting all the wrong people by doing so. However, his character is never really as sleazy or as funny as you would hope and expect.

He has enough charisma to drag this wooden cart across the finish line but boy, what a long and drawn out race. There is good chemistry between him and Marisa Tomei. The pair didn’t really grate on me as much as I thought. But it’s all so predictable and obvious.

In fact so much so that writer/director Marc Lawrence doesn’t even bother to go with an OTT corny luvvy-duvvy ending. We are just left assuming that they do with an incredibly flat and open ending.

This is Lawrence’s FOURTH collaboration with Grant (Two Weeks Notice, Music and Lyrics, Did You Hear About the Morgans?). Fans of their work may find this the weakest one yet.

The little facts about Binghamton were a nice little touch. If completely unnecessary bar the little bit of trivia about being the birthplace of the creator of the Twilight Zone, Rod Serling.

The little jibes about teaching scriptwriting brought a guilty grin to me. Merely because I have tended such classes and wondered what a lecturer could possibly teach me (At times I was right). The little things were okay but hardly that funny. Grant picking a class of beautiful ladies and ugly nerdy fellas was typical but hardly hilarious.

The supporting cast at Lawrence’s fingertips do their best to put some emotion in his leaden script but the characters are so one-dimensional, flat and unmemorable. I had to read the cast names to remember who was who.

The only lady to make a decent turn was the provocative and alluring manipulator Karen. Bella Heathcote (Dark Shadows) will certainly be one to watch for the future. Emily Morden didn’t do too bad a performance as the ditsy Andrea.

But Star Wars nerds? And emos with no emo-tion who secretly have? Annie Q (The Leftovers), I’m looking at you. Didn’t mean to rhyme with that. Alison Janney (Mom) did her best to conjure up an adversary immune to Grant’s charm in the Jane Austen junkie. But it doesn’t really go anywhere after their initial cringe-inducing but entertaining introduction. J.K. Simmons (Spiderman) and Chris Elliott (Scary Movie 2) were wasted in their roles. Two gags from the pair is all we get and even they go on far too long.

It left like it was just churned out with no real thought or research relying on the cast to attract bums on seats. Lazy, clichéd but not even watchable. Just plain dull.

Grant’s character is too laidback and smarmy to really to do anything. A moment in which one of his students delivers a stellar script could have been an opportunity to test him. I really thought he might nick it to save his flailing career to ignite a little drama in this hollow affair. BUT oh no, it’s merely a passing of the torch as he reluctantly accepts he is old hat. Aww. Yuck.

A lot more could have been made out of the big time Hollywood fish stuck in a small mid-West town. I mean Lawrence had the perfect actor to play the snobby cynic. I think Mr Grant needs to take a little break and re-assess his next project instead of taking the pay cheques. The fact he has pulled out of the third Bridget Jones film says it all. For every little titter, there were a dozen duds.

Predictable, dull and unmemorable. Grant and the cast do their best but nothing was going to save this ship sinking. I think Lawrence might want to take some writing lessons. Class dismissed.

2/5 for me.